Europe Nostalgia: Poland

So this is my last Europe Nostalgia post for the time being! Poland is a beautiful country which has been through a lot in its history. However, as time went on, they still managed to retain their traditional customs that began long ago. I stayed in Poland for two weeks and visited 3 cities with each having its own personality and charm. In comparison to Western Europe and countries like Greece, Poland is quite underrated in terms of being a tourist destination. It’s a shame though, there is so much to see, do and of course eat here! Also a bonus, their over inflated currency means that everything is dirt cheap!

Poznan

An small, old fort city in the West of Poland. It was once the capital at one point (as many of the other cities in Poland have been also…). It is quite a cute little city with plenty to offer. My walking tour guide did a successful job of convincing me that Poznan was definitely worth my visit. I had some delightful food here. I found a place which specialised in crepes (they call them pancakes).

Warsaw

The current capital of the nation. Majority of this city was destroyed during World War Two but has been restored to replicate what the city looked like pre war. I did my first ever food walking tour! For those who haven’t heard of this or done one before, basically you go to a bunch of places and try a signature food item at each place. They’re only samples but by the end of the tour, you are full! You also get to try local drink too and in Poland that is Vodka. Instead of using a soft drink or juice as a chaser, we used a pickle! Surprisingly, it was delicious because the saltiness of the pickle balances out the sharp flavour of the vodka.

Krakow

Last but certainly not the least, Krakow! The most touristy city in Poland and one of the biggest. I spent a week here and got to really embrace the culture and lifestyle. I also did another food tour here which was quite different from the one in Warsaw. Each city has its own traditions and food. For example, instead of chasing your vodka with a pickle, in Krakow, they chase with piece of herring! Who would’ve thought?! I consumed at least another 50 pierogis while I was here! No complaints at all.

So that’s it for my Europe adventures at the moment! I won’t be heading back there for a while now but will be travelling abroad again as soon as possible!

Europe Nostalgia: Prague

Prag, Praha or in plain old English, Prague, is the capital of the Czech Republic. Here you will find some of the most stunning architecture I’ve ever seen. I also consumed some amazing food here. Both on the street and in a restaurant called “Lokal”.

A popular street food which you most likely will not be able to avoid because almost every second shop and street stand sells them is “Trdelnik”, a cylindrical doughnut cooked on a rotating tube which is normally coated with sugar and nuts. You can also get ones with fancy extras like chocolate, cream, ice cream or a combo of all three. Do not leave Prague without trying one and make sure you go to a place where they pull one off the heat fresh for you because it’s so much better than if it is cold. In terms of prices, there was a pretty solid standard for these and were priced the same basically everywhere I went around the city. Another must try in Praha is the street sausages! It is a super sized hot dog with your choice of toppings. I just kept it simple with good old ketchup and mustard. I found that walking an extra 50 metres knocked some coin off the final price so have a wander around before choosing a place.

So I think “Lokal” deserves a paragraph all on its own so here we go. When visiting a foreign country, one of the things I love to do is find out their traditional food, scope out the scene and pick the best place to try it out. This restaurant was actually recommended to me by a friend back home and I am so thankful for it because I went here two days in a row for lunch. This place functions as almost like a cafeteria where each day, the pre prepared menu changes keeping the place fresh. Of course, you can still go back the next day and devour an entire plate of bread dumplings (so delicious I can’t even explain and also a staple on the menu). This place was bustling both times that I went and it wasn’t just tourists either. In terms of prices, I had a 3 course meal (I constitute beer as a course here as it filled me up quite a bit!) for under 10 euros.

Fun fact: According to my free walking tour, the Czech Republic is the highest consumer of beer per capita. And why wouldn’t they be? It is actually cheaper than water in a lot of circumstances. Compared to its neighbour Germany, the taste is actually pretty good (however German beer is still my fave). Even better, they sold this as well an array of snacks and drinks at our hostel reception. This was especially convenient when supermarkets closed at 10 and you just completely lost track of time in the first hours of the evening.

Here are some snaps from around Prague to get a feel of the vibes.

Prague is one of the cities where I spent the most time so I really got to embrace the culture and life here. It is a down to earth city with so much to offer. Definitely put on your list of places to visit before you die.

Next post: Poland

Europe Nostalgia: Italy

Time for my next post about my most recent Europe adventures! This trip marks my third visit to Italy. I am in love with the food and history in this beautiful country. Each region has its own specialty to offer the world and so it is essential to not just relive the Lizzie Mcguire movie in Roma! The three cities/regions that I visited in 2015 included Naples, Florence and Milan.

Naples 

Residing on the South East coast of the boot is the region of Naples. Home of Mount Vesuvius, Sorrento and the stunning Amalfi Coast, there is plenty to see, do and of course eat. From both research and word of mouth, I learnt that Naples was famous for pizza! However, being on my own meant that every time I ordered one, I had to consume the entire thing (no complaints). I also had a lucky experience of getting to watch the chefs make my pizza for me. I will be attempting this method at home in the foreseeable future.

Florence

If i had to pick one city in Europe overall even though it is basically an impossible question because each city is so different I would pick Florence. This was the second time I visited Florence and I loved it so much I decided to pop in again. The city is filled with stunning architecture, genuine leather products, fresh food and some exquisite gelato. To top it off, a last minute change of accommodation whilst en route to Florence ended up being the best decision I made and I ended up with a top notch room for my stay.

Milan

Unfortunately, I didn’t stay in Milan for very long (5 hours to be exact). However, I definitely got a feel of the place and a peek at some of the sights while there was still some daylight! I also enjoyed a meal here and of course gelato.

So there you have it, a little taste of Italy, a country that I will most definitely visit again.

Next post: Prague, Czech Republic

My Tips for Surviving Europe on a Budget

So I may not be Rick Steves or a writer for Lonely Planet but I have definitely picked up some handy tricks and tips along the way in order to explore Europe with a limited amount of cash. Thanks to both friends at home and abroad for their help and inspiration for this post. Oh and Tyler Cowen.

Find yourself a free walking tour

For those who have never done a free walking tour, the basic concept involves a guide who doesn’t work for a wage and is rewarded for his/her work with the tips of the tour participants i.e. you. I find walking tours an excellent way to find out a load of info about a city in a short space of time. The guides are normally locals or people who have lived in the city for an extended period of time and so they know their bit. Tours are also a great way for solo travellers to meet people (more often than not you meet fellow travellers staying in the same place as you making meet ups super easy post tour). If you really did enjoy the tour, don’t be a stinge and tip the guide please (and write them a fabulous review on Tripadvisor)

Find a supermarket

Not a mini market, but a supermarket where you would normally do a full grocery shop. This will become your new favourite place for breakfast, snack purposes and bottled water (if tap water is not potable). If you’re paying a euro for a bottle of water, you’re paying too much. Some good supermarkets that I recall visiting include Lidl, Tesco, Biedroska (Poland) and basically anything German.

Eating out

So you’re in the beautiful city of Nice (for argument’s sake). A good way to figure out a well priced restaurant is to set yourself up a “price index”. Basically, you pick a dish or two that is served at basically every French restaurant in Nice (for this example I will use Niçoise salad). For this to work and you to keep things as simple as possible, you need to assume the salads are exactly the same. Oh and look around you, if you are in the middle of the Old Town Square then yes, prices will be double so branch out into the side streets or less populated areas to avoid the tourist price gouge.

Never settle for the first offer

This could be anything from souvenirs to pretzels. It is always highly likely the place around the corner has it for a euro or two cheaper (with that difference being able to buy you some gelato or something). Also in some countries, it is perfectly acceptable to negotiate a better price. I found this a lot in Turkey and in any kind of market or bazaar with stalls as opposed to structured shops.

Find where the locals eat

A good way to find these places is via these few pointers

a) The menu at the front of the restaurant is not in English

b)  The words “Tourist Menu” are not mentioned at all

c) They specialise in one form of cuisine and are not catering for the masses

Basically, these places are cheaper, more authentic and the quality of the food is much better. Finding these places may involve some wandering around but hey you’re in a beautiful city so it’s the best of both worlds.

Where should I snooze?

As a solo female traveller, I opted not to utilise the site “Couchsurfing.com”. I’m not saying it’s bad or anything, but for me personally, I didn’t feel comfortable enough to use it. This would be the ultimate budget accommodation as it’s free. However, to give myself (and my parents) peace of mind, I went with hostels. Two apps you need in your life – Hostelworld AND Hostelbookers. Not everyone out there is aware that each booking site gets allocated a certain number of beds and so you may have heard of an amazing hostel however it may not be showing on one app. However, if you check the other you might just be lucky enough to score a bed. As for choosing your pad for the night, big things I look at are location, security and facilities such as kitchens.

  • Location – if you can walk to every awesome place that you want to see, then you are in a great location. I personally hate trying to figure out public transport in foreign cities and so I always make sure my hostel is located in the centre of all the important things.
  • Security – getting things stolen is not fun for anybody so make sure you pick a place with a super high security rating. Bonus if your room has lockers AND locks are provided. Most hostels have safety deposit boxes free of charge at reception too.
  • Kitchens – so as much as I would have loved to have gone out every night indulging in restaurant food, I knew I had a limit on funds and so if you score a good hostel with a kitchen, you will be able to whip yourself up nutritious meals on those nights when you don’t feel like foraging for food (or those mornings when all you want is bacon and eggs).

Make friends with people in your room

Because…

a) Friends are awesome and make for fun adventures whilst travelling

b) They have most likely been there slightly longer than you and may have interesting info about the city

c) With friends, come friends who may potentially know a local in that city which means access to a whole new realm of possibilities like underground bars and secret hideaways.

Raid your hostel reception area

They normally have a stack of free maps and guide books with some offering discounts at partnering restaurants. They also have an array of things to entertain yourself with if you decide to have a quiet afternoon to yourself (oh and if you’re lucky they have free unlimited tea and coffee! Win!)

Choose your transport wisely

So majority of backpackers travelling Europe will be venturing to more than one city. So to find your way of getting from A to B there are a few options for you. As a solo female traveller, I decided not to use car sharing services however, I would if I was travelling with another person. Second best priced alternative I found were buses. There are hundreds of companies around Europe and a handy place to find a decent portion of them is through an app called “Go Euro”. Through this app, you can do point to point trips and it will show the prices for bus, train and plane (save yourself the hassle and don’t fly between cities unless you’re travelling from west to far east for example). This app also provides the nifty feature of letting you book your transport directly through the app! So much time and money saved. Also, two birds one stone idea is if you’re travelling a long distance (in transit for about 7 hours plus) then opt for an overnight bus. You will arrive in the city early, give yourself another full day and also save on a night’s accommodation.

So there you have it, this is some of what I’ve learnt whilst being on the road so hopefully when you decide to jet off abroad you will be able to use some of these tips to better plan your trip. No time like the present.


Featured Image: Appropriately chosen photo of Nice, Côte D’Azur from Europe 2014 where I did my first ever walking tour and also where I first utilised the price index concept. 

Europe Nostalgia: Greece

I am lucky enough to have gotten the chance to visit Greece for a second time alongside my travel companions Madeleine and Eleanor. We ventured off to four islands including Rhodes, Santorini, Crete and Mykonos. Each island has its own unique style and atmosphere and so when planning a trip to Greece make sure you include a few islands to get the most out of your experience.So here I am to share with you some of the sights and of course the food that I encountered!

Rhodes

Medieval city, beaches and cocktails. Rhodes or “Rodos” is an island just about an hour away from the South East coast of Turkey. Here we discovered the Medieval city which is UNESCO Heritage listed. We had a wander, took numerous selfies and really just took the place in. Day two was spent soaking up the sun, swimming in the Aegean Sea followed by a night of cocktails in Rhodes town.

Santorini

White buildings, expensive galleries and jewellery shops that I will hopefully one day be able to afford, volcanoes and donkeys. We stayed in a bed and breakfast style place with an amazing breakfast of Greek Yoghurt, fresh fruit and boiled eggs straight from the owners’ own chicken! We also ventured to two sunset spots – the main one filled with tourists in Oia and also a second one which can be seen from the Santo Winery. Unfortunately for us, the night we chose to visit the Santo Winery our sunset view was completely blanketed with cloud cover! Alas, we still enjoyed the wine “samples” which were basically the equivalent of a full glass of wine. Happy days!

Crete

I didn’t really have high hopes for Crete before arriving. That would be due to my limited knowledge about the place and also because I didn’t know anyone who had visited there in the past. However, it was instant love. We decided to hire a car and were glad we did because we had access to some of the best beaches I’ve ever visited. It was here too where we also consumed some amazing food!

Mykonos

The party island. Well one of. Also filled with the beautiful white buildings like Santorini. We checked out the nightlife, the beaches and enjoyed chilling out for 5 days.

So there you have it. A taste of our Greek oasis!

Next post: Italy


Featured image is from our visit to Elafonisi Beach, Crete

Europe Nostalgia: Turkey

I decided to wait until I came home to blog about my travels. Alas, better late than never so here is the first post of a few which I’ll be sharing over the next week or so! First stop on the trip was Istanbul, Turkey! My girlfriends and I spent two weeks in Turkey and absolutely loved it! Turkey has a unique culture and atmosphere that I have never experienced before while travelling and so it was one of my favourite places. Over the course of two weeks, we visited Istanbul, Cappadocia, Pamukkale, Bodrum and Fethiye to really get the full Turkish experience. Of course, we delved into the culinary world of Turkish food which I will share with you today as well as a few snaps of the scenery to give you some context. I’m mainly going to share my photos from Istanbul and Cappadocia as they were my two favourite places!

Istanbul 

The place where we spent the most time and my overall favourite place in Turkey. The city is filled with mosques, markets, beautiful gardens and harbour side views. Our visit happened to be timed with Ramadan and so the atmosphere of the city differed to how it normally would be. It was very quiet during the day, however at night, the city became illuminated and families would sit in the gardens and have a picnic after the sun had set. It was a really interesting experience. Here are some scenery photos to get a feel of the place.

Food Finds

So of course being a food blogger, I have a keen interest in trying out the local cuisine. Thankfully for us, the food prices in Turkey are cheap in comparison to our hometown and so our money went a long way as we got to indulge in some amazing food!

Cappadocia

So Turkey as a whole is a unique place, but Cappadocia just heightened those feelings. For anyone who hasn’t heard of Cappadocia, it is a natural land formed city filled with caves. Our hotel was in a cave. We stayed here for two days and got the full experience. We visited the Ihara Valley, Underground City and made the best decision of the trip to go hot air ballooning for the sunrise.

Food Finds

Cappadocia had some foods of their own alongside the traditional Turkish food seen in Istanbul. The locals here are so welcoming and friendly. When we went to sample Turkish delight, we also were welcomed to a smorgasbord of sweets including sesame peanuts, dried berries and an aphrodisiac specific Turkish delight!

Turkey is a country that should be on your travel list. It was definitely an experience that I will never forget.

Next post: Greece


Photos are all my own unless stated otherwise

Nostalgia

So it has been almost eight months since I returned home from Europe last year. Thinking about the travel I have done just inspires me to do more so here is a just a reflection of things gone by in the wonderful land of Europe.